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Saturday, October 28, 2006
 

Eagleton on Dawkins on God ::

Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion has been rattling a few cages, predictably. If you enjoy barbed English academic writing try Terry Eagleton's review in the London Review of Books. The literary critic has a whale of a time castigating the evolutionary biologist for his willful ignorance of theology...

He starts:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.

...and from there it only gets better (or worse).

Eagleton neatly dismisses Dawkins' missunderstanding of Christian (and Jewish) ideas of God as creator, writing:

To say that he brought it into being ex nihilo is not a measure of how very clever he is, but to suggest that he did it out of love rather than need. ... The Creation is the original acte gratuit. God is an artist who did it for the sheer love or hell of it, not a scientist at work on a magnificently rational design that will impress his research grant body no end.

Possibly my favourite paragraph in the rant is this masterpiece:

Jesus hung out with whores and social outcasts, was remarkably casual about sex, disapproved of the family (the suburban Dawkins is a trifle queasy about this), urged us to be laid-back about property and possessions, warned his followers that they too would die violently, and insisted that the truth kills and divides as well as liberates. He also cursed self-righteous prigs and deeply alarmed the ruling class.

I rather wonder why this is not the conclusion:

His God-hating, then, is by no means simply the view of a scientist admirably cleansed of prejudice. It belongs to a specific cultural context. One would not expect to muster many votes for either anarchism or the virgin birth in North Oxford. (I should point out that I use the term North Oxford in an ideological rather than geographical sense. Dawkins may be relieved to know that I don’t actually know where he lives.)

Now I must buy the book... Terry Eagleton's How to Read a Poem that is, not Dawkin's opus. The opening of chapter one sounds promising:

I first thought of writing this book when I realised that hardly any of the students of literature I encountered these days practised what I myself had been trained to regard as literary criticism. Like thatching or clog dancing, literary criticism seems to be something of a dying art.
With a beginning like that.... he's got me.



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